Kicking up a stink

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Discharge permit, ‘flawed’ marine outfall a big concern

AFTER years of illegally discharging raw sewage into the Hood Point, West Bank surf line, the Buffalo City Municipality (BCM) have finally, in July this year, been issued with a pre-compliance letter from the department of environmental affairs.

IN THE PIPELINE: A delegation from Buffalo City Metro visited the Hood Point Sewage Works renovation site in West Bank in June this year, with BCM mayor Xola Pakati, third from left, inspecting the renovation of the site Picture: FILE

The letter urges BCM to comply with the National Environmental Management: Integrated Coastal Management Act by applying for a coastal waters discharge permit.

DA executive committee member Neil Smith has corresponded tirelessly with the department of environmental affairs coastal and marine division on this issue, often to no avail.

“We’ve asked them to produce a permit that they should have issued to BCM many times, and they’ve so far, failed to do so. Why was BCM not issued with a non-compliance notice previously, and if they were, then why did they continue with this discharge into the surf line?” Smith said.

The latest issue regarding the Hood Point marine outfall is the current Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in progress to construct a 1.4km deep water offshore marine outfall pipeline.

Put forward as a solution to the raw sewage being pumped into the surf line/sea, the proposed pipeline will be extended from the existing valve chamber and allow effluent to be discharged offshore or deeper into the sea.

The EIA for the marine outfall, however, is fatally flawed for a number of reasons and has very little prospect for success.

Among the many issues regarding the proposed pipeline is the increase in severity and frequency of storm surges through climate change.

These storm surges and swells could easily mean that sewage will be washed up on the coast of East London, polluting all ecosystems including people using the coastal area for recreation and the adjacent marine protected areas

“A major concern is also the management of such infrastructure by BCM. Given the track record of BCM, evidenced by the infrastructure collapse seen around us, we have no confidence that the municipality will manage this marine outfall project adequately to prevent major pollution events and a total failure of the system,” said Smith.

“The discharging of raw sewage into the surf line at Hood Point is a further indication of this. The current treatment works at Hood Point were also allowed to deteriorate into a state of complete disrepair.”

East London Museum scientist Kevin Cole added that there seems to be a direct correlation between the diseases picked up by certain marine mammals and the level of sewage pollutants in coastal waters.

Mayor vows West Bank clean-up

“The sewage pumped into the ocean is definitely contributing negatively to the wellbeing of some dolphin species. They already have oil spills and ships to deal with, we don’t need to add more pollutants to marine life,” said Cole.

According to Cole, a more viable solution would be a land-based sewage works. One of the reasons for this being the ability to treat the sewage water and recycle it with a land-based mechanism.

Despite being on the coast and receiving more rainfall than inland areas, Cole insists that East London needs to become more waterwise as water is and will continue to be a big challenge for South Africa.

“Even recycling sewage water into grey water for inland agriculture can have lasting beneficial effects,” said Cole. “It’s surprising that the proposed pipeline is still being considered as an option, because of the various detrimental effects it can have – not to mention the major compliance and regulation issues which still persist.”

The high costs associated with a land-based sewage treatment plant seems to be the reason for BCM’s disregard for such a project.

A Daily Dispatch report in July last year (BCM’s R1.4bn sewer upgrade) stated the West Bank Treatment Centre will be upgraded at an estimated cost of R53-million.

On June 29 this year, a GO! photo showed a high-ranking delegation from BCM in a visit to the Hood Point Sewage Works renovation site in West Bank. Mayor Xola Pakati was among the delegation and it showed that work had started at the plant.

BCM had not responded at the time of going to print.

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